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PET Discussion Thread

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

My GD philosophy thread is on Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon. I need to preface this that I have not read this book in ages but I did find the entire book for free online: 




I am going to just start this thread here and go back and skim the book and bring some of my own experience into the discussion after I've refreshed my memory. 

post #2 of 11
Thread Starter 

This article does a pretty good job of summarizing the book. Interestingly, it is quite similar to some of what we've already been talking about. On thing that jumped out at me was this comment: 


Parents do have power over their children. After all, they are
physically larger and stronger, with exclusive access to resources
that children need (e.g., car keys, money, and food). There is
nothing wrong with having power. The problem occurs when
parents use that power to resolve conflicts with their children.
Using power can create resentment, dependence, and fear, and
can ultimately damage the relationship between the parent and
child and the child’s self-esteem (Gordon, 2000).



One other thing that I remember from the PET class that I took was that silence could solve 90% of communication problems between a parent and child. I really took this to heart. I learned to be quite and listen. I learned that a pregnant pause in the car with my kid often leads to opening up in a way that my words could not encourage and I learned the value of asking my child if she wanted my opinion or not (a very useful thing as she enters the teen years).  


I do think this philosophy crosses with all the others we've talked about so far, UP (but with more practical advice as I recall), NVC (quite closely I think, in fact I think maybe part of PET involves NVC) and CL as well in many ways though perhaps different in recognizing parental power, which is perhaps important to me because denying that seems a bit of a stretch for me. 

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

I haven't seen something like this before (never looked) but there appears to be quite a lot of research about PET: 




I'm also including this because I am studying to be a teacher and this is an exciting find (as are the AK books on education!): 



post #4 of 11

PET was very much a lone voice recommending a working with approach. AK quotes Thomas Gordon - limits are important but what is more importasnt is how they are set , together or unilaterally 

I liked the " I" statements of PET. 


AK sees teaching and parenting as part of education. The teacher Joe Bower has been mentioned here - he shares how he puts AK into practice  http://joebower.org 

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

I still haven't skimmed through the book to remind myself of the thinks I took with me but I did remember something....


In my PET class my instructor talked about addressing behavior issues individually. She said that it is too daunting for a person to hear that you want them to change a habit or pattern but it isn't difficult for them to think about how they would/could have done one small thing differently. This has come in handy for all sorts of relationships. 

post #6 of 11

Parent Effectiveness Training is an old favorite book of mine.  I have never taken the course or had an instructor (which is a neat thought), but I do think you can get a lot simply from the book.


Yes, Alfie Kohn does quote Tom Gordon in Unconditional Parenting.  (I think maybe he interviewed him?  And quotes from or references this interview in UP?  Maybe the full interview is available someplace.  Or maybe my memory is faulty!)


I think the similarities between NVC and P.E.T. are real and make sense, given the backgrounds of both authors.  You could say that those similarities express the connection both authors had to Carl Rogers.  Marshall Rosenberg & Thomas Gordon both were students of Carl Rogers (I am thinking in different institutions and at different times, but I don't know for sure.)  I see Rogers and his values and assertions all over the work of both men.  For me, what Carl Rogers said about how young children internalize "conditions of worth" gave me a strong sense of what to avoid as a parent, or how TO parent.


I think the way P.E.T. is constructed or organized, and laid out, could be especially appealing to some parents.  I wonder if men who resist the idea of reading "parenting" books might like this one.  I have always had the sense that my husband would like it a lot (he hasn't read it but has heard a lot about it!)


Mary934 mentioned the "I messages" and I believe this is a strong, emotionally responsible way of speaking (and thinking.)  Speaking personally and owning your feelings in this way can help to transform interactions in relationships.  I think it was a "missing piece" for me.


I recently was glancing at some of Gordon's comments about "active listening" and how he talks about translating or "decoding" a child's communication.  I tend to think of it as reflective listening and as a way of bringing acceptance to communications that might be triggering or upsetting.  And when you "reflect" you are translating that more primitive communication, thereby modeling what you would wish to hear from your upset child.  But it certainly IS active listening, in that I actually am giving my child "herself," which facilitates a process (in her) that more passive listening/accepting does not quite do.  It's not a matter of instructing (or being active in the sense of "guiding"), but rather very active listening and understanding, and reflecting back.


And I think if someone is struggling with the idea (or the "how?") of personal limits, P.E.T. is worth a read.

post #7 of 11

My parents had PET book on the shelves when I was growing up (1970s).  So I read and re-read it many times (bit of a bookworm).

I think it's okay but it really doesn't address the fact that parents are human, too, not robots.  We struggle to keep control of our emotions.

And as ever, sometimes there just isn't time to discuss and explain everything. Sometimes I don't really know the words, I just know what I want is best and it's only later I can think of a simple way to explain to DC why.


As a teenager, I thought my parents simply didn't follow it.


I thought Kohn was quite critical of PET actually.

post #8 of 11

Here is a great blog post/article about the similarities and differences between NVC and PET:



post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Wow...that is some kind of in depth analysis, Mary!  


Cavy - I definitely just took from the book/class what fit for my family. I don't remember if I felt that PET allowed for parents to be authentic and "human" but if it didn't, I'm sure I just carved that out for myself...because I'm all about that. I do remember when we talked about addressing just individual issues (rather than patterns like always leaving wet towels on the floor) I kind of banged my head against the wall because sometimes it IS about the repeated behavior and less about the individual. BUT, I have found that it works so well to just address the one thing. Maybe it's in part taking some ownership of not dealing with a pattern and letting resentment build....I don't know. 


But, yes, I certainly always tweak ideas so they fit with who I am. If I were ever going to develop a parenting philosophy I think I'd call it "authentic pareting". love.gif

post #10 of 11
Actually, I thought PET did have good room to "be human", I've only read the book, but I remember him talking about on a normal day when everything was going pretty well, certain things would not be a problem, but when you've had a really bad day or aren't feeling well, sometimes your limits are lower. Actually, looks like it is the topic of the entire 2nd chapter, "Parents are Persons, not gods" where he shows that each parent can have different levels of acceptance and that you can have different levels of acceptance based on mood/illness/etc and that different things are acceptable depending on the situation (dinner with just family vs. dinner with company is an example). and that is ok! It was one of the things I really liked about PET because now I know I can tell DD "I have a headache, so please help mommy out by not playing with X loud item. Could you read a book, play with your doll, etc. instead?" or "Daddy doesn't mind if you play that rough, but that hurts Mommy, can we play (this way) instead?" and so on.

Thanks for posting this, I should reread the book again before my twins arrive as it is always good to refresh myself. The book isn't perfect (what is right?) but I found it to be probably the closest match to my parenting style and written in a very approachable way.
post #11 of 11
Originally Posted by Cavy View Post

My parents had PET book on the shelves when I was growing up (1970s).  So I read and re-read it many times (bit of a bookworm).

I think it's okay but it really doesn't address the fact that parents are human, too, not robots.  We struggle to keep control of our emotions.

And as ever, sometimes there just isn't time to discuss and explain everything. Sometimes I don't really know the words, I just know what I want is best and it's only later I can think of a simple way to explain to DC why.


As a teenager, I thought my parents simply didn't follow it.


I thought Kohn was quite critical of PET actually.


I read this book years ago, not recently, but as mentioned in Quinalla's comment, I thought Gordon was pretty explicit about parents BEING human (not "gods," not perfect, not bloodless.)  He really points out the fact that unconditional acceptance of every behavior or situation is not realistic, and that parents do best when they own their LACK of acceptance of a situation, rather than trying to "be" something (unconditional, accepting) that they are not.  The communication is about owning your feelings & expressing them, which doesn't burden others around you.  Speaking personally also lets your children encounter you as a flesh-and-blood person, with real limits.


Most of all, though, I have found that accepting my lack of acceptance for something in the present moment is generally the "key" to actually living Unconditional Parenting in a moment to moment way, or the key to "being unconditional"!  Whereas trying to "be" something in spite of how you actually feel ultimately creates a backlash and gets in the way of living your values.


I think maybe those times when you don't know the words or "just know what I want is best" can be expressed to a child with an acknowledgment like, "I am insisting on this" or "I am deciding this."  I don't think it's a matter of having some kind of explanation that will "work," so much as it is speaking honestly in a personal way about what actually is happening at those times.


When I am aware that I am using my personal power for whatever reason, and I acknowledge it, it's also more likely that I'll have space inside for accepting my child's possible reaction TO this reality.  But oftentimes, this entire dynamic results in some kind of resolution or acceptance in the child, too.  (So that the tears or protest don't happen.  But I didn't "need" them not to happen.)



Do you remember why you thought Kohn was quite critical of P.E.T. and/or Gordon?  Was there something specific that you read or is that just an impression you carry? (like my impression that Kohn quoted Gordon/referenced P.E.T. favorably...I certainly have that impression but it's been awhile since I read or referred to UP.)

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